A good first rodeo — AU and the 2017 State Legislative Session

The power of engaging ordinary Utahns.

The 2017 State Legislative Session was officially the first rodeo for Action Utah — but it will certainly not be our last! We engaged ordinary community members like you on a daily basis in over 200 calls to action, writing and calling legislators, lobbying at the State Capital, attending press conferences and rallies, writing op-eds and letters to the editor and spreading the word to other Utahns to do the same.

We worked with Republicans and Democrats, lobbyists and advocacy organizations to develop strategies and produce meaningful calls to action that made a bigger difference than we could have ever imagined for our first year on the Hill. At the end of the session, we could not be more proud of all of you and what you accomplished!

Here is our rundown of the session and also a list of weekly actions to take on state and national issues.

2017 State Legislative Session Recap

Of the 40 bills we prioritized this year, 18 good bills, resolutions and appropriations passed and were funded and 7 bad bills were blocked, stalled or amended. Another 5 good bills simply ran out of time and did not receive a final vote, but we hope to see each of those revisited by the state legislature soon.

There were highlights and lowlights in all of our policy areas, but fortunately we had more highs than lows.

Highlights and Lowlights

HEALTH POLICY:
More than half of our health policy bills passed with flying colors, making it easier to treat opiate overdoses, cheaper to administer epinephrine, possible to research medical applications of cannabinoid and more effective to care for new mothers and their children through more available home visiting.

Our calls to legislators pushed a new helmet law into effect on the final days of the session to protect young motorcyclists ages 18-21 from preventable injuries and death and save our state millions of dollars in medical costs. Unfortunately, reproductive health education failed in committee. Action Utah is dedicated to working on this issue over the interim in order to tackle Utah’s porn problem, prevent sexual abuse, delay sexual activity, reduce teen pregnancies and STDs and increase use of contraceptives.

SOCIAL POLICY:
We worked on 16 social policy bills this session and achieved an 87% success rate in helping to get good bills passed and funded and bad bills blocked or amended. As a result, landlord discrimination will be reduced, adoption processes will be improved, fewer children will be unnecessarily incarcerated, all rape kits will be tested, and much more. Highlights included a big pay off for all our hard work throughout the session on HB 36 Affordable Housing Amendments, which finally passed with most of its funding restored in the 23rd hour thanks in large part to the efforts of our team members writing in and lobbying at the Capital alongside the Utah Housing Coalition.

Other boons included the abandonment of a proposed food tax hike, thanks in part to droves of our members contacting legislators to oppose the measure, as well as passage of SCR 6 to acknowledge and guard the civil liberties and freedoms for all Americans.

SB 210 Equal Pay Amendments was sadly held in committee, preventing the mere collection of data to analyze the potential pay gap in Utah. However, Action Utah will continue to work with the bill sponsor on the legislation to help give it another shot next time around.

ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY:
We focussed on clean air and public lands this session and were thrilled to see your emails and phone calls pay off when legislators finally committed in the final days of the session to appropriations for air quality monitoring equipment and research. Clean fuel school buses also finally got the funded they deserve. Unfortunately, a tax incentive to help Utah transition to energy efficient vehicles failed in the House, and HB 134 Emissions Testing Amendments was unable to get a final vote in the Senate. These clean air failures were countered by the good news that the Bear River development (a great and unnecessary expense to our state and potential catastrophe for clean air in the Salt Lake air shed) was not proposed this legislative session.

On a sour note, two contentious public lands concurrent resolutions, HCRs 11 and 12, passed in order to request that the federal government repeal Bears Ears and dramatically reduce Grand Staircase. Rules in the House were broken to reduce public input and force these measures through at breakneck speed, prompting the dramatic exit of Outdoor Retailers from Utah. Action Utah continues to work with community members and groups around Utah to bring a voice to the majority of Utahns who want to see our national monuments kept in tact in order to be good and true stewards to our public lands and also to the spiritual and cultural heritage housed within their boundaries.

GOVERNMENT POLICY:
A handful of good bills failed throughout the session that would have improved the historically low state voter turnout rates, brought us ranked choice voting, and made it easier to register to vote and to address gerrymandering in Utah. Fortunately, most of the bill sponsors will try, try again, and Action Utah will be there the next time around calling our members to help move voting and election policy forward.

A big highlight of the session was the successful blocking of bad bill HB 93, which would have made it illegal to even consider diversity in judicial appointments when all other qualifications between candidates are equal. Although HB 19 Civil Asset Forfeiture Amendments did not receive a final vote, a similar civil asset forfeiture bill from the Senate SB 87 was able to pass this session and will address some of the social injustices around property seizure.

A disappointment was the passage of HB 11 State Boards and Amendments, which eliminates the bi-partisan consideration from appointments to 29 decision-making boards in the executive branch — an overt power grab in an already one-party state that disregards the importance of diverse perspectives in good policy making. Our member’s calls to legislators helped stall and even amend the bill in the House, but the Senate reversed the amendments and passed the bill. However, Governor Herbert has yet to sign HB 11 into law, so please keep calling and emailing to request his veto of this bill.

And the beat goes on…

The legislative session is now over, but our work at Action Utah has only just begun. Over the interim we will continue to meet with legislators, lobbyists and advocates to collect information, engage our members and impact policy making on a number of topics, including some carryovers from the 2017 session. Stay tuned for more details to come!

 

Check out these events from our Calendar.

 

Weekly Actions

State Issues

1. Bring the Action Utah Road Trip to your town! Action Utah leaders will be visiting cities and counties across Utah to meet with local Action Utah members and their community leaders and state legislators in order to learn about what issues matter most in your area. Are you an Action Utah member outside of Salt Lake County? Do you and other community members want to see Action Utah come to you?

  • Contact us here to request an Action Utah Road Trip stop in your area.

2. Join a local march! Let your voice be heard in Utah by joining a local sister march coordinated with one of these nationally organized Washington marches.

3. Ask Governor Herbert to veto HB 11 State Boards and Commissions.

National Issues

1. Demand a Special Prosecutor and Independent Investigation on Russia — until they happen. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a Trump appointee, has declined to appoint a Special Prosecutor to assume control of any investigation into White House ties to Russia now that Sessions has recused himself. That means that Rosenstein himself will oversee these investigations. In the meantime, both the House of Representatives and the Senate are considering bills to initiate an independent investigation into Russian interference in the election and Trump ties to Russia.

  • Contact your Senators and US Representative and ask them to push for a Special Prosecutor. Let them know that our nation’s electoral integrity is not a partisan issue.
  • Ask your Senators to support Senate bill 27, which calls for an independent commission to investigate Russian influence on our election and democracy.
  • Ask your US Representative to support H.R. 356, the Protecting Our Democracy Act, which would establish an independent, 12-member commission to fully examine Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Call Senator Orrin Hatch – D.C. (202) 224-5251, UT (435) 586-8435
Call Senator Mike Lee – D.C. (202) 224-5444, UT (801) 392-9633
Rep. Rob Bishop (UT01) – D.C. (202) 225-0453, UT (801) 625-0107
Rep. Chris Stewart (UT02) – D.C. (202) 225-9730, UT (801) 364-5550
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (UT03) – D.C. (202) 225-7751, UT (801) 851-2500
Rep. Mia Love (UT04) – D.C. (202) 225-3011, UT (801) 996-8729

Not sure who your U.S. Representative is? Find out here.

2. Oppose HR610 “Choices in Education Act”. This two part bill distributes federal funds for school vouchers and decreases nutritional standards for school lunch. Public education experts believe this bill will disrupt education in schools, eliminate crucial Title 1 funding and diminish teacher quality.

  • Contact your U.S. Representative to ask them to oppose HR 610! If you get their voicemail, be sure to leave your name, address and zip code to ensure that your call gets counted. Don’t know who your Representative is? Click here to find out.
  • Send a letter to your U.S. Representative using this online letter writing tool.
  • Sign this petition to Congress and Trump opposing block grants, vouchers and HR 610, posted on our Petitions, Petitions! page.


Help us spread the word about Action Utah!

Action Utah is growing every day as community members from across the state join us in engaging state and national policy matters through educational, accessible and vetted calls to action. Our non-partisan network focuses on building bridges and reaching across aisles to find common ground on issues that matter to most Utahns. Do you know people from around the state who would be interested in becoming more engaged? Please forward them this email, pass along our website or share our posts on Facebook and Twitter.

Andrea & Katie
Co-Founders, Action Utah

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